Jacques told me in our initial intake the he had invested a “shit load amount of money” into a startup which was going belly up because of “communication problems”.
Yves called me in because his CFO and Marketing Manager had “communication from hell”.
And Hans asked me to do some work because with introduction of the new ERP, communication between various functions had broken down.
In all three cases, the client self diagnosed incorrectly.
Indeed all three companies had communication issues, but communication was either a symptom or a clue that something else was wrong.
In Jacques’ case, the head of development and the head of product marketing did not agree as to product requirements and the CEO could’t decide because he was a bean counter and idiot.
Yves turned out to be playing his marketing manager and CFO against one another and he himself was the problem.
In Hans organization, the ERP was too rigid for the flexible nature of the organization. As a result, the ERP did not work very well; lo and behold people needed to use their common sense. (should unit 1 or 2 pay for staff expert Tom’s flight).
The moral of the story is the early bird gets the worm. No, just joking.
The moral of the story is that self diagnosis of communication problems is highly unreliable in many cases, often masking other issues which are more deep rooted.
I confronted CEO James that unless he replaced his buddy Serge as focal point for the Thai/Singapore/Indonesian office, there would be massive churn of key sales people. James turn livid and told me that “I didn’t hire you to replace Serge, but rather to align the South Asian offices to our culture. So, if you cannot do that job, maybe I need to replace you. You cost me a lot of money, and you don’t deliver.”
Speaking truth to power means, “when necessary confront the powers that be about what they are doing wrong without fear.” Speaking truth to power was a cornerstone of organizational development.
I am aware that the “speak truth to power” generation of OD professionals has either retired or died…or perhaps (like me), they are still in the game albeit towards the final “laps”.
I am aware that the newer generation of OD consultants strives to “please” clients, creating a “wow” outcome, or what Reddin called “apparent effectiveness”.
I have never been reticent of confronting my clients, It is a central tenant of my practice. As a matter of fact, this is one of the reasons that I am still hired.
In the course of my career, I have incurred a huge amount of initial wrath from clients upon confronting them with unpleasant truths. While it helps that I am personable and have a good sense of humour, there is something unpleasant when the client lashes back.
Here are a few things that keep me afloat when under attack.
- It is natural for clients to respond this way.
- The client is apparently very involved, which is very positive.
- I must check the content of what the client is saying, because I may be wrong.
- I did what I did because I am doing my job. I am also being paid a high fee to take the heat.
- This type of interaction will make me into a better consultant and the build the clients’ trust.
And when it gets really hard-one minute at a time.